Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Itty Bitty Bookworm (and a giveaway!)

The pitfall I've found in telling parents of toddlers and preschoolers that they don't need a homeschool curriculum is that the vast majority are uncomfortable with such a relaxed approach. It's all well and good for us veterans--who have already had the fun of digging into catalogs and experiencing our first Box Day--to say, "A library card is all you need! Read, play and have fun!" We, after all, have shelves full of the most alluring and enticing historical fiction, handbooks on grammar and math games. But their shelves are depressingly bare.

It doesn't feel like they're doing anything to homeschool their child. It can't be as simple as a library card and a lap, anyhow. And even if it is ... someone must have the market cornered on the best way to do that, right?

So the newbie homeschooling parents end up falling into one of two camps: the I'll-Just-Get-A-Couple-Of-Workbooks-Because-My-Three-Year-Old-Is-Smarter-Than-You-Think-And-Picture-Books-And-Real-Life-Won't-Cut-It camp, or its equally common subsidiary, the We-Read-Fiction-Intended-For-Upper-Elementary-Children-Because-My-Three-Year-Old-Is-Smarter-Than-You-Think-And-Picture-Books-And-Real-Life-Won't-Cut-It camp.

Neither of those options leads to really good places in 99% of the families I've seen. The preschooler usually begins to balk at homeschooling by the time first grade rolls around, if not before. Often, another child or two has joined the family at this point, and the mother is feeling overwhelmed. She starts her days exasperated because the bar has been placed so high. Her seven year-old either cannot be entertained with the simple beauty of Blueberries for Sal because he has already cut his teeth on the Chronicles of Narnia and has therefore left his siblings in the dust (creating a massive gap the homeschooling mother has to straddle for years) or finds his own, far-advanced schoolwork dry and dull in comparison to the simpler stuff mom is pulling out for the younger crew.

How do I know so much about the thinking of these mothers? Well, because I was one myself, of course! Witness this excerpt from my journal, dated December 2000, when Jo was just three years old:

Finished reading Charlotte's Web again tonight. Jo is still infatuated with pigs and can't get enough of them. I got everything the library had on the shelves regarding pigs, fairs and farms and tomorrow we'll start reading through them. I printed out a writing worksheet so that she can practice the letter "p" and found a "finish the drawing" coloring page where she can try to complete the outline of a pig. It feels really good to be doing something that's tangible. I finally feel like I can account for all of the hours we spend in the day.

See? I know of what I speak, ladies and gentlemen.

Which is why I always tell parents that they don't need a curriculum. Then I wait, watch their reaction and gauge whether to go ahead and give them leads anyhow. Up until now I have really only had one recommendation to pass along. Today, I have added another to my short list of Preschool Curricula That is Worth Your Time: Itty Bitty Bookworm.

First and foremost, Itty Bitty Bookworm is a literature-based learning program. This fits perfectly with my thinking on educating very young children: READ TO THEM. Cuddle up close and read, read, read and then, read some more. Itty Bitty Bookworm helps moms give themselves permission to do this. Each month's lessons are built around a variety of excellent picture books that engage curiosity, build vocabulary and build interest in the world outside your front door. From this spring board, parents lead their children through activities as rudimentary as cut-and-paste skills and
simple sing-alongs to more advanced skills like cooking and hands-on experiences. These are perfect "little guy" activities: things you might come up with on your own ... or might not, depending on how much laundry is stacked on your couch at that moment.

While Itty Bitty Bookworm isn't designed exclusively for the homeschool market, it's extremely adaptable. Each month's unit (which retail for $25 each) contains forms that remind me exactly how blessed I am to have my toddler at home under my own care. After all, I've never received a checklist letting me know when he
pottied and when he ate a cracker. I guess I could fill that out for my husband, but I chose to ignore those pdf's and get to the good stuff.

Bailey's Curriculum is designed for 18-36 month old children and their very limited attention spans. Using two books over the course of a month, young toddlers are led through simple finger plays and large motor skills, as well as some early learning activities that will appeal to moms who need a little leading to feel that their child's play has value. Thankfully, Bailey's Curriculum is not centered on tying toddlers to seatwork. This is an experiential, enriching curriculum that has its priorities in order.

Bo's Curriculum is the 3-5 year-old arm of Itty Bitty Bookworm, and features four to six books per month. Tied more to early-education standards and the celebration of holidays and seasons, moms who like the idea of a more traditional preschool approach will be challenged by the vast array of ideas. This is play with a purpose: enough organization to keep kiddos on track and moms feeling accomplished. The literature is truly what shines in Bo's curriculum, though. Classics like The Little Engine That Could are interspersed with silly recent titles like Dinosaur Train, keeping the overall feeling light and the focus on fun and parent/child interaction. I love the selection of books. They are age-appropriate, engaging and necessary. I'm sorry--but if you haven't read Barn Dance or One Duck Stuck to your preschooler, you really should!

Mini-units, which I have not seen, are also available. I noticed that some of these are Bible units, which would add a spiritual element to an otherwise secular curricula.

A second year of Bo's Curriculum is in process, while the first is complete for both Bo and Bailey. Itty Bitty Bookworm allows parents to order an entire year's worth of lessons, or to select a month at a time. Because each month is a separate, self-contained unit, parents can truly customize by skipping entire months in addition to picking and choosing among the recommended activities and readings. This month-by-month approach may be a blessing to parents feeling a money crunch, too; there have definitely been years when Mr. Blandings and I would have far preferred paying $25 per month for curricula rather than ponying up $250 at one pop.

The biggest downside I can find with Itty Bitty Bookworm is simply this: the onus is on the teaching parent to collect the books and materials to be used in each week's learning. Parents with expendable income can easily purchase all of the books and supplies using the lists provided. Those with an excellent library system and the opportunity to work a weekly outing into their schedule can easily take advantage of resources as well. But a mom with many littles or older children with educational needs of their own may find the extra legwork just enough to negate the benefits of having a pre-written plan to pull from.

Tara Rison, the founder of Itty Bitty Bookworm, has graciously offered to sponsor a giveaway for people who comment on this post. Simply visit the Itty Bitty Bookworm site, peek through the Bo or Bailey pages and let me know which book listed has been a family favorite in your house. You'll be entered in a drawing for three months of either the Bo or Bailey programs.

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Join the conversation

I've been very blessed in this life. Aside from a God who pours out love in ways that leave me awed and humbled, I have also been gifted with a husband to walk alongside, five children to nurture and love and a safe home to call my own. That's not enough in God's economy, though. No, He presses down that cup and returns it overflowing.

Overflowing is often how I feel after Benny and I meander through one of our epic theological discussions. These talks are never planned; they are the simple outpouring of what the Lord is doing in the lives of two women at whatever moment we catch one another. Though often interrupted by the very real duty of mothering a combined total of nine children, we are never deterred from fleshing out the beauty and poetry of the Scriptures, of sharing God's direction in our lives or from asking the big questions that swirl in the minds of well-meaning but still journeying women longing to draw ever closer to Yahweh.

Benny has taken her most recent topic of theological interest to her blog, and writes about it here. I invite you to respond and to join in the conversation. I can't guarantee you won't have to take a break from commenting to disciple a wayward child, but I can tell you from experience that she's a) used to it and b) very patient with such doings.

See you there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I am not the mother I wanted to be

You don't need me to tell you this, but here goes:

People can--and will--say the darndest things.

Out loud, even.

I was at the Y yesterday, signing Oliver and Manolin out of childcare just after my 45 minute biking marathon with Jo. It's a wonderful Mother-Daughter bonding time; if you've got the means to work out with your daughter, I highly, highly recommend it. The conversations we've had in those 45 minutes have been some of the ones I know I will cherish thirty years from now. The big boys are in Karate at that time, the little guys are in childcare and it's just Jo and me,
racking up miles on those stationary bikes while everyone around us wonders what in the world we're finding so stinking hilarious.

But I digress.

As I said, I was at the Y. Manolin had already been handed over the counter and was grinding his face into my collarbone with every ounce of his being. Oliver was being led--in protest, mind you--away from the playdough table and towards the little green exit gate. I wrote my name on the register with a flourish, and turned my attention to signing dramatically so that Oliver knew it was time to head home.

"You've got, what? Three boys? Holy cow," said the worker, a woman about my age.

"You missed one," I offered helpfully, taking a step to the side. Sure enough, Atticus was hidden just behind me in the tight reception area.

"Four boys? I couldn't do that. No way. They would drive me nuts."

I smiled broadly and nodded. This woman, after all, goes to my church. And you know ... she really ought to know better.

"I like raising boys," I said. "These guys are awesome. I can't imagine how boring life would be without every single one of them."

You think that's it, don't you? You're saying to yourself--"This is a post about how people are always bashing on little boys." Well, it could be. But no. This woman just didn't know how to quit when she was ahead. Just then, Jo came through the door carrying our workout gear in our oversized blue duffel.

"Oh my gosh, I totally forgot! You have, like, five kids. All those boys and a girl."

Great math skills, I thought. You must be so proud. My sunshiney thoughts had turned decidedly sour. Because at this point, let's face it: the woman has already basically told my sons that they are a burden to their mother. Now she's going to harp on our family size. This keeps getting better!

The woman then shook her head and delivered the jewel:

"I couldn't have that many kids. There's no way. I just couldn't be the mother I want to be with that many of them."

And you know what? I told her she was absolutely right.

"I can't either!" I admitted. "And I'm so thankful!"

Now before you look at me like I've grown ten heads (which is precisely the look she delivered, by the way) let me tell you why I feel the way I do.

I am not the mother I wanted to be with these children. Can't be. It's not possible. There's only one of me ... and five of them. Do the math. I can not be all things to every child.

The world says I am failing. I have chosen quantity over quality. I can't possibly be a good enough mother. Needs will not be met. There are just too many kids.

Praise God, I say.

Because I have come to realize that the things I want to do and be for my children are not necessarily the best for them.

I want to kiss every boo-boo. Fawn over every picture. Brush every head of hair. Trim every finger nail. Hold the back of each bike seat as the training wheels come off.
Stop the hurts before they come. Be the ear for every heartache. Bake every afternoon snack. Cheer at every game. Warn of every danger. Read every book. Watch every impromptu performance. Be a part of every game. Lead every troop. Sing every song. I want to right the wrongs. Hold off the enemies.

I want to be their world.

With one child, I could do that. No problem. With two, I think I could manage pretty nicely. But with three, five, seven? No way.

Instead, what my kids get is something different. Maybe not better--the Lord's plans are different for each family, and I respect that. But at the very least, what my children have is equal. It's not some lesser thing. It's not worthy of pity. It's just different.

It's not about me, The Perfect Mother, this growing up thing. No matter how much I always dreamed it would be, it just isn't. It's about God and the family He provided to meet every need.

Do boo-boos get kissed? Of course! But a portion of the time, it is a big brother who kisses the baby's head after he's tried to fit underneath the coffee table for the fifth time in an hour. Do cookies get baked? Yes. I admit, though, that Jo is turning into quite the chef thanks to being blessed with the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen without my hovering. And do you know who taught Logan to balance on his big boy bike when he shed the training wheels? It was Atticus, running behind him and shouting, "Brother! Brother! You're doing it!" in a voice so full of pride and utter joy that I get a catch in my throat just remembering. I cried from the curb, my hands busy plaiting Jo's hair to fit under her helmet. It was a gorgeous moment, burned into my mind, my heart, my soul.

"Brother! Brother! You're doing it!"

Are there sweeter words?

My children have a cheering section, not a number one fan. They have a chorus of voices that sing their praises and hands that reach out to help no matter the hour of the day. Will they walk through adulthood with this same closeness? There are no guarantees, of course. My own mother is the youngest of seven children, and I wouldn't call their family particularly close-knit. There is no formula, no one perfect thing that will bind these little personalities into a warm quilt that they will want to stay wrapped in throughout their lives.

But there is love. Abounding love. More love than I, the mother who has been entrusted with them, could ever offer on my own.

I am not the mother I wanted to be. I do not make it to every event. I am sometimes preoccupied with a diaper or a math problem when a milestone flies past me at the speed of light. My children will not remember me in the foreground, chairing every committee, meeting every need and wiping every nose.

But I am the mother God wants me to be. I am in the background, usually. One voice among many in the sea of encouragement. Cheering. Praising. And witnessing the miracle that is our family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Houston, we have a (socialization) problem

I heard a speaker a while ago who made light of the ever-present, always annoying "s" word question. The speaker used the example of an homeschool-curious outsider asking about socialization by pointing out that he'd met a family of homeschoolers before and they were, frankly, weird.

"'Seriously?' I asked him. 'Because I went to a government school and there were weird kids there, too!'"

The speaker went on to explain that being in public school didn't fix "weird" kids. Kids who don't fit the social norms don't fare any better
(I'd argue that they fare worse) in a classroom than they do in a homeschool environment.

Nope. Off-beat is off-beat. Ain't nothin' gonna' make that chicken hatch a goose, as my Mamaw likes to say.

All of this is refreshing news because I have finally--finally--woken up to the fact that I if I were to start attending a Momma of Slightly Different Kids support group, I'd have to stand up and announce, "Hi! I'm Mary Grace and one of my kids is weird."

It's a good weird. A "don't laugh at that geek because he'll probably employ you in 20 years" kind of weird. But weird is still weird in the world of the playground. And yes, one of my kids is weird.

I'll just come out and tell you who it is. It's Atticus.

Yeah, go ahead and tell me you already knew that. Everyone else has/does. I don't see why the folks who know him only in the blogosphere should be any different. But people, realize that I see this little man through Momma Eyes, and what I see is Unique, Intelligent, Curious. Perfection, in a word. What others see, I now realize, is Strange, Geeky and Slightly Affected.

You know ... just your everyday "don't let that kid play with us" kind of stuff.

I finally opened my eyes to this after several instances where Atticus' lack of social know-how highlighted his tendency to be quaint and somewhat groovy while still shocking your socks off with his dazzling intellect. Try saying that in one breath and it'll give you a taste of what it's like to grapple at your thoughts when Atticus is on a roll.

Case in point #1: the six of us in the small, local sewing shop. The owner--a kindly, slightly older gentleman--is showing off the machine I've come in to look at. He asks the kids if they'd like to see his top-of-the-line embrodiery machine make a Mickey Mouse figure on a hoop of fabric.

"Gee whiz, Mister, I'd love to!" Atticus beamed. "You know, we went to Disney World a couple of years back."

The owner smiled and nodded politely. Atticus took this as an invitation.

"I love flying in planes. Have you ever flown in a plane? I think the best part is watching the wing flaps during a landing. It definitely scares me because, you know, if they mess up you end up dead. But all in all, it's a pretty swell application of physics."

The owner smiled and nodded politely. Atticus took a deep breath and prepared to continue, but felt my hand squeezing his shoulder. Enough, that hand said. You're scaring the locals, son.

Case in point #2: Atticus cornered a friend--one of my friends, mind you--at church on a Sunday morning to tell her how excited he was about an upcoming barbecue. I realized what wass happening and cut him off, but not before he had apparently sawed her ear for ten minutes. Later, in the bathroom, she confided with a giggle, "I had no idea he was due in June."

Mystified, I nodded. "Yeah, he was early. Both of the big boys were. Why did this come up?"

"Oh, honey," she laughed, "Atticus told me his whole life story. His whole. life. story. I think the only part he missed was his conception."

Holy gabber, Batman! Will somebody teach that kid when to shush already?!?!

Atticus, thankfully, is blissfully unaware that he sticks out like a sore thumb in society at large. His very good buddy, Tye, is cut from the same cloth and--thanks to his parents' commitment to being salt and light in the public school system--enjoys weekly therapy sessions at school. Being pulled out of math class to see the counselor probably doesn't help when it comes time to face the popular cliques on the dodgeball court, I'm thinking. But hey, I'm a homeschooler. What do I know?

What I do know is that I am upping Atticus' social skill instruction time. Gently, of course. It's time for Atticus to learn a little more about the social norms he'll encounter more and more as he grows. I want my son to know that I love every single unique, intelligent and curious thing about him. I want him to know that God created him to be the amazing young man he's growing into. That it was his Heavenly Father who made him to love mice, science, order, exclamations from the early 50s and dancing like no one is looking.

But I do want him to understand when his own light shines so very brightly that, well, it starts to blind folks.

That's the kind of socialization we'll be working on. The "reading other people" kind of socialization. The "when it's appropriate to share" kind of socialization. You can keep the counselor and the schoolyard bullies. The drug awareness, the sex ed. lessons and the pecking order. We're just trying to tone down our little bit of eclecticism over here. That's enough social prowess for me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Birthday, again

Today, Atticus is 9.

Atticus the Wise.

Atticus the Cautious.

Atticus the Philosopher.

Atticus the budding preacher.

Happy birthday, my first-born son. May God continue to be glorified through you, and may your light shine for Him always.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Today is Logan's birthday.

Logan--my third baby in 4 years.

Logan--when I heard the news that I was pregnant with him, I hit a hard, almost impossible to shake stumble.

Logan--whose actual birth was a miracle that opened my eyes to the grace and mercy that is always present in Christ.

Logan--whose smile lights my world in the most dark of days.


If I were "liberated" and "free" and "practical" in my thinking by the world's standards, I would have put my foot down and aborted that baby.

Thank you Jesus that you never let that option creep into my mind. Thank you that even in my haze of "I can't do this!" I had people who love and support me. People who helped my eyes turn back to YOU, and YOUR glory, and YOUR plan.

Because without that, I might not have Logan. I might have been a victim of the world's thinking: this baby wasn't planned. Wasn't convenient. Wasn't worth the trouble.

What would the world be without my Logan? I can't imagine.

And neither could you, Jesus. And that's why he's here.

Because You are bigger than an overwhelmed mother's fears and failings. You ARE enough.

Please help other mothers who find themselves where I was that fall of 2001 see the pure joy that's coming 7 years down the road. Help them to surrender THEIR hopes and THEIR desires to you.

Because Logan was--is--will always be WORTH IT.

Thank you for my son, Lord.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bee still

It's amazing to me the way that an average, run-of-the-mill moment can careen into something so blindsidingly intense in a matter of moments. Those "I didn't see it coming" moments are what people describe after horrific car accidents, dramatic premature births and phone calls announcing that a loved one has gone to be with the Lord. These are the slow-motion seconds where our guts clench, our disbelief gives way and our cognitive self relinquishes the driver's seat to the raw emotions that we rarely ever expose to the light of day. We all live with the threat of these experiences hanging over our heads, but somehow, they seem far away. Just out of reach. Unable to touch us in our cozy little life bubbles.

Driving home from a post-church barbecue Sunday afternoon, I tasted the very real possibility of my bubble being burst. The sun was shining, my belly was full of a delicious Chinese Chicken Salad and the seven of us were happily performing a very ill-conceived version of "Jet" as we enjoyed the country road home. Everything was right with the world. Everything was perfect, actually. I reached over to Mr. Blandings and snagged his hand for a squeeze.

Which was, apparently, the cue for the trauma to begin. Through my open window, something tiny flew in and landed on my skirt. Before I brushed it away, I gave a cursory glance--a hard-earned habit, as you will soon see. There, agitated and dancing, was a bee.

For most of the population, an irritated bee is a nuisance, but not an emergency. For me, any stinging insect that carries a venom sac is a potential agent of death. I don't say this lightly and I'm not being dramatic. Unfortunately, I am among an elite (snicker, snicker) group of folks who enjoy anaphylactic shock when we have run-ins with bees. Over the years, I've been stung more times than I care to count; each reaction seems to be incrementally worse. I carry an EpiPen, but it doesn't stop my reaction. It buys me time, however. And time, in an anaphylactic incident, is precious.

So you see why that second it took to assess the situation was so important; because I live with the knowledge that a bug--any bug--is a potential danger, I don't rush to shake hands with them. Thus, I didn't give the angry little bugger a chance to insert stinger A into hand B.

But clearly, judging by the looks of him, the bee was searching for some way to make his displeasure known. He was crawling over my lap, dragging his stinging end and seeking some form of purchase, which was proving elusive. I had chosen a flowy, tiered peasant skirt from the closet that morning and the layers of ripply fabric were stymieing his attack. My heart did a sick, aching leap in my chest as I took stock of the situation:

Driving on the backroad.
All of the kids in the car.
Nowhere to pull over.
Miles from the hospital.

I squeezed Mr. Blandings hand and croaked that last word out to him. He immediately sat bolt upright. When you've had the privilege of slamming a needle loaded with adrenaline into your wife's thigh on more than one occasion, you take this kind of thing seriously.

"Where?" he asked, twisting the volume down on the stereo and bringing an instant stand-still to our happy party.

"My lap," I told him, trying not to move.

My mind had already gone to the bad place, of course. The scary place. The place where I begin to feel the hot spread of the poison as it makes its way to my throat. The place where I feel my vision slipping its hinges, where the faces of my babies float just beyond me, and Mr. Blandings' voice is a deep throb in another reality. The place where I would breathe water, fire, anything, anything ... just let my body cooperate, breathe, breathe, breathe ...

With my children watching, horrified, scared, fearful and completely out of control as their father hangs on with everything he has to their frail mother.

The place where stillness is absolutely absent.

Mr. Blandings squinted at my skirt, and then back at the road, unable to locate the offender in the maze of colors and patterns. The kids were, by now, wondering what was going on. Questions were making their way to the front of the Suburban.

And this is the absolute mystery of these slow-motion, heart-stopping moments: you are still very much alive. And function you must.

"There's a bee on Momma," I called back.

Dead silence. My children have waved to ambulances from bedroom windows after Momma has hung out with a bee. They have endured EpiPen training. They have carted trash to public cans on hot days to keep Momma safe. Bees, in their economy, can be very, very bad.

"Let's all just pray, o.k.?" I managed. Mr. Blandings was searching for a shoulder, a driveway, a ditch ... anything.

It was Atticus' voice, shaky but clear, that rose above the rapid thud of my heart.

"Dear Jesus, you made bees. And we like them very much. We like honey and we like flowers. But Jesus, we like Momma better. So please let Daddy find a place to pull over and let him open the door and let the bee fly away. I know you're gonna' do this, so I'm gonna' say thank you right now. Thank you for keeping the bee from stinging Momma, Jesus. Amen."

My heart resumed its normal pace. In the face of such faith, how could it not? I flipped through the rolodex of my mind and settled on this verse:
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7

The stillness reigned for long, interminable minutes. I repeated that verse like a mantra.

As if according to script, Atticus' prayer was suddenly realized. Mr. Blandings found a shoulder. He raced to the passenger door, flung it open and watched as the bee buzzed away. I sat up (when had I slouched down?) and smoothed my skirt, my hair. All five children began clapping.

We got back on the road and went home. With the windows up, of course.

I suppose my day could have ended the same way that it began, with those few minutes of fear leaving no trace of change in my heart. But I try hard to take my lessons where I find them. That night, in my prayer journal, I wrote this:

Thank you, Lord, for rescuing me. Let me never forget that you are the one who protects me and keeps me safe under your wing. Thank you for the prayers of my children and the peace you sent me. And Lord, thank you for the gift of that terrible moment. Why does it take fear to turn my heart most fully to you? Help me to cling to that quiet vulnerability, even when there are no bees on the horizon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Smells Like Home

Our young neighbor, Pedro, informed me today that he feels very comfortable in our home.

"Better than any of my other friends!" he told me, which tickled my soul to no end.

Just now, as he leaned in our sliding glass door and took a long sniff of the supper simmering on the stove, he realized why.

"Arroz con pollo!" His 6 year-old body writhed with delight. "I knew I loved you!"

For me, it's a pot of chicken and dumplings bubbling alongside a pone of cornbread. For Pedro, it's arroz con pollo. What smells like home to you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What does your heart say?

Quiet your mind. Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Then watch this:

And now, take a look at this post on Hands Full, HEARTS full, Quiver full. And this one on Banku, Pho and Fried Spiders.

If you need another nudge, leave me a comment with your most pressing questions about adoption. If I can't set your mind at ease, there are plenty of other readers here who would be happy to share their stories with you. You can always repay them with prayers for their adoption journey!

And promise me this--promise that you'll ask yourself what's holding you back.

Because folks, there's a whole lot of children who need homes. Homes just like yours. Imperfect. A little chaotic. Messy, even. Houses too small. Run by fallible Mommas and Daddies. Without sprawling backyards. With $10,00 per year in the annual paycheck than they'd like.

Just ask yourself, o.k.?

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Lately, I don't feel like the world's greatest mom.

While Oliver was at visitation today, I took the remaining four kids to McDonald's. And fed them JUNK. Why? Because they had video games there and I really wanted to just sit in the (relative) silence for ten minutes.

I have been counting the free sample lessons on the Teaching Textbooks website as math for the three older kids all week.

I didn't vacuum this morning, and there is dog hair all over the floor downstairs.

I need a haircut.

I would rather read to my kids than load the dishwasher.

My cousin is on vacation and I miss getting her emails and talking to her.

I realize suddenly that Manolin turning one is going to hit me like a ton of bricks.

I think I'm beginning to HATE Oliver's social worker. Seriously--HATE. I don't HATE anyone. Well ... until now.

My husband makes our bed every morning because I just don't care if it gets done or not.

The flowers in pots on my front porch died. Already. Bummer.

I plan on going to the Y early for my workout tonight because I want to bring the little guys home while the big ones are at AWANA and just be alone.

I am wearing the "WORLD'S GREATEST MOM" badge that Atticus made me today.

I am not looking forward to my homeschool support group meeting tomorrow night.

I haven't called to check in on my disabled mom in nearly a week.

That's the real me today. Warts and all. Love it or leave it. How real can you be this rainy Thursday?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Note on Jo's bedroom door whiteboard this morning:

God will:
provide for
care for



listen to

The cause for such public proclamations of praise?

After rounds two rounds of sad breeding outcomes, a successful litter has been kindled in the rabbitry of one little Jo Blandings. Jo's $35 mistake bunny, Michelle, gave birth to her first batch of babies in a seamless delivery last night.

Jo made the announcement with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks as she burst in on me in my trademarked "DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE" bath time. Needless to say, the house was not on fire. But, it turns out, the flame that is the love of the Lord was being fanned in my beloved daughter.

As if it weren't enough to just have live bunnies after the specter of death haunted the last attempts, the Lord took this opportunity to pour out on Jo the kind of love that He knew she would understand the most:

Jo, it turns out, had been praying for 3 live kits. Three. It seemed like a lot to ask, she says, but she knew that God could do it. So she prayed. She petitioned. And she kept her mouth firmly shut, waiting on Him.

And this, my friends, is how the Lord of Heaven and Earth answers the small, heartfelt prayers of an 11 year-old girl whose faith in Him was not shaken despite the storm:

NINE. Yes--9 kits. Healthy, wriggly and mewing.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. --Luke 6:38

I serve the MOST HIGH GOD, the One who cares enough to reach down and tenderly place a heap of baby bunnies in the lap of my hopeful daughter. It's a good day. A very, VERY good day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can I get your opinion on this?

I saw Voddie Baucham speak at a recent conference and was challenged by his take-no-prisoners approach. I tend to retreat from encouraging others--even those who I know in my heart of hearts would make great homeschoolers--to abandon public schooling. Instead, I find myself reigning in the urge to answer the question "Why do you homeschool?" with "Why DON'T you homeschool?"

I'd love to hear what readers have to say about this clip.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

TOS Review: Homeschooloing ABCs (newbies, you MUST get this!)

One day, I sat down to compile a list of all the answers to all of the questions I get from folks interested in/new to homeschooling. I threw in the basics-- "What about socialization?" and "Where do I find curriculum?"--and some of the harder to answer ones, too (such as "What do I do with my babies and toddlers?"). My hope was that I could create this master file pdf and send it to the people who contacted me about our support group expressing an interest in getting started. Talk about a timesaver for me!

Within about forty minutes, though, I was discouraged and sure that there was no way I was ever going to put all of these thoughts into one concise package. So I quit because, you know ... someone probably had a poopy diaper or something.

I forgot all about my list, and my great plans for this wonderful, all-inclusive guide to the beginnings of homeschooling died.

Little did I know someone else was at work on the same thing--and that person not only had the wherewithal to dig for deeper questions, put also the eloquence to put them together in a format so practical and easy to use that frankly, it's a must have.

The series is called Homeschooling ABCs, and it's authored by Terri Johnson. Terri's talent for speaking directly to the scared-but-excited part of our hearts is an absolute treat; I can imagine myself as a timid newbie feeling completely empowered by the ideas, analogies and simple how-tos that Terri writes about in this series.

Delivered to your email in-box in 26 weekly lessons, Homeschooling ABCs hits on so much more than any one homeschooling mentor can offer you. Some highlights:

  • Determine YOUR philosophy of education -
  • By understanding what you believe about education, you will be able to impart that education more strategically to your children. And stay more focused and on-track!
  • Understand your children's learning styles - We all learn differently, there is no doubt about that. When we understand how our child learns best, we can cater his education specifically to him.
  • Learn the ins and outs of buying & selling curriculum - Let's face it, if we need to buy curriculum to successful teach our children, we might as well learn to buy it right!
  • Find out how to get and stay organized -
  • You and your children will function better when your school day, school area and school work are well organized.
  • Learn how to teach multiple ages at the same time - Most of us do not just have 1 child and so it helps to learn how to teach more than one child at more than one grade level. You CAN excel at this!
  • Make the most of field trips - Field trips can take school from good to great. Find out how to optimize learning while still having fun.
  • How to handle the "S" question - Socialization -
  • People will constantly ask you how you are socializing your children. Have an answer and a plan.
  • How to start each day WELL and keep it going that way - Keep your children motivated, stay cheerful in their attitudes and quick to finish their schoolwork

Written with enthusiasm and authority, these lessons are the instruction manual that I wish I'd had before I took on the job of teaching my own. I honestly plan on printing the entire series and passing it on to Jo in the hopes of encouraging her toward homeschooling the next generation. Homeschooling ABCs is everything you are trying to glean from a whole library of homeschooling guides, and more. All in one place.

How convenient is that?